EHarmony is hoping opposites will attract for its latest series of TV spots directed by Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst.
The national push, set to break in August, is an attempt to reach a broader audience with a humorous spin that departs from the real-life success stories the matchmaking site generally features in its ads.
The dating site has a strong base with 25-to-40 year-olds, according to the company. But it hasn't been as popular with people outside of that age range (though, interestingly, 88,000 of its 45 million registrants are over the age of 80.) EHarmony hopes the funny ads will resonate with its existing audience and appeal to singles of all ages by lightening the mood around finding the perfect match.
"People have a heavy enough life," said Neil Clark Warren, eHarmony founder and CEO. "They just like to see something that makes them laugh a little bit." He said his presence in the ads help maintain the brand's credibility.
The first of three spots helmed by Mr. Durst features young "Caroline," an actress cast as Mr. Warren's granddaughter from an earlier ad, and a boy who wants to sign up for eHarmony. The second spoofs the trials of dating as unsuspecting singles trudge through disastrous evenings with a witch and an ogre. The final ad in the series, which is in post-production, is set during an ultra-competitive bouquet toss that's unrewarding, even for the winner.
"These particular commercials are more fun than I'm used to seeing from eHarmony campaigns," said Mr. Durst, "but you can relate to them in a way that makes sense on many different levels for many types of people."
"Caroline and Friend" is currently testing. "Witch/Ogre" and "Bouquet" are due to start testing nationally in August and September respectively.
TV comprises about 80% of eHarmony's $90 million annual marketing budget, the company said. But it's also expanding its online efforts, which make up the remaining 20%, mostly via affiliate partnerships with internet marketing companies like Commission Junction and Globalwide. Radio is tested periodically, but doesn't represent a significant percentage of the ad spending.
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The commercials are part of a shift in eHarmony's overall marketing strategy that began in 2012 when Mr. Warren came out of retirement to resume his role as CEO. Before his return, the company was on the verge of being sold (investors had taken a 30% stake before Mr. Warren initiated a buyback.) During the tumult, eHarmony lost 100,000 subscribers a year from 2010 to 2012, the company said.
In 2013, after the founder restructured eHarmony's marketing efforts, Mr. Warren said its subscriber base grew by 55%, which he attributed in part to his return to the spots and improved online marketing efforts.
Relationship, not dating, site
EHarmony is currently braced for an expansion plan that will grow the business from one vertical -- marriage matchmaking -- to 10, he said. Last December, the site launched a premium product called EH+ that offers one-on-one relationship coaching. Its new career-matching platform is set to launch at the end of the year. The remaining seven verticals will roll out over the next four and a half years, he said, although he declined to provide further details.
"We're trying to move into being more of a relationship site, rather than just a site that matches people for marriage," said Mr. Warren.
EH+ is currently marketed online and testing in radio, but eHarmony expects to increase the ad spending for this product and the career platform. The company said marketing plans are still being made, but it is considering all channels.
Another kind of chemistry
It may seem strange that Mr. Durst, known for his nu-metal vocals, is behind the new spots, but this isn't his first time in the director's chair. He worked on several films including the indie drama, "The Education of Charlie Banks." This is the second set of commercials he's directed; the first was done for MyCleanPC earlier this year.
"It was a really amazing experience," said Mr. Durst, who was initially wary of doing commercials after hearing "nightmares" about the industry. "The chemistry was perfect right off the bat. I'd definitely be open to doing something else if they wanted me to."
Mr. Durst found his way to eHarmony through its agency of record, Handmade Productions.
"Everybody thinks that I'm the most serious guy in the world, but I'm not," said Mr. Warren. "They think that Fred Durst is the most fool-around guy in the world, and they couldn't see how the two of us would be put together. But he just talks our language and I feel so comfortable around him."
In other words, a harmonious marketing match.